Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A big “thumbs-up” for NonStop!

Popular news publications talk of doom and gloom for technology behemoths but for those who choose NonStop, the journey continues – and it’s all good news!

Back behind my desk, following the road-trip through the south-eastern states of the U.S. even as I work, the memories keep coming back. Apart from the destinations – Atlanta and New Orleans being the cities we spent the most time visiting – it was once again, about the journey. Over the years, we have managed to fill up the garages, so whenever we plan a road-trip one of the last questions addressed is always over which car we will choose to drive.

As you can tell from the picture above, the Nissan GT-R proved to be the winner this time. The photo, courtesy of, captures us cornering rather aggressively along Tennessee highway 129, otherwise known as the tail of the dragon due to many corners that have been carved out of a very short mountain crossing. With me giving the thumbs-up then yes, it was Margo behind the wheel and if you want to read more of this trip, then watch for a post to the blog, Buckle-Up-Travel later this month.

One of the more fascinating attributes of the Nissan GT-R is the instrumentation it provides. Each morning, after driving for half an hour, I was able to call up screens integrated as part of the infotainment center that showed me the tire pressures (a standard screen), the temperatures for coolant, engine oil and transmission fluids as well as pressure readings for the engine and transmission (a custom screen I cut-and-pasted from options provided), and then returning to the main instrumentation panel directly in front of the driver, fuel range and the (average) fuel consumption.

So much functionality available today, when all that was present just a decade or so ago was the speedometer / odometer and perhaps a water temperature gauge. When you look at the journeys we embark on these days without even a second thought – yes, we drove 3750+ miles – having access to more than just entertainment and navigation “applications” is extremely helpful. However, it wasn’t just about having access to the information I wanted so much as it was about the choice – I could select options that were valuable to me. Margo, of course had her own screens that only added to the number of choices on hand.

In the post of August 10, 2013, to the comForte Lounge blog, Computertopologies change – and comForte keeps investing I referenced an article in USA Today, Dellis repeating the wayward history of Wang. Reporter, Mark Veverka, writes of how “Dell was to client-server computing as Wang was to mini-computing. Yet all good things must come to an end, and for technology behemoths, the end seems to come sooner rather than later.” This end is being driven, according to Veverka, by Cloud computing and the emergence of providers better positioned to support new ways of interacting with servers. The point I go on to make is that the NonStop community is well aware that NonStop servers have proved adaptable for four decades and aren’t disappearing off technology’s radar screen any time soon. Roadmaps are in place showing a future for NonStop well past 2020. The choice of NonStop continues to be a viable option whenever transaction processing is involved.

To have vendors (and in that post, I referred to comForte 21, but others are certainly making investments too), prepared to invest in key technologies underlying the migration from client-server to cloud computing – even where they represent early baby-step approaches – is encouraging. For everyone in the NonStop community this is a positive reflection on just how viable NonStop systems remain through such transitions. NonStop did make the transition to client-server; WAN controllers went outboard even as LAN controllers became integrated with the NonStop system.

However, there was a lot more involved apart from changing the way controllers were connected, as NonStop development took the step to back away from major investments in WAN protocols and services to focus almost exclusively on TCP/IP. As the Internet drove change even more rapidly and the Web services model became better understood, the arrival of SOA / Web services attracted even greater investments, as once again, vendors stepped up to provide offerings even as they faced stiff competition from NonStop development itself. Options again, are always good and having choice only comes when vendors are confident about the longevity of the platform.

There has been a lot of commentary posted of late to discussions in various social media channels, not the least being to a number of groups on LinkedIn. If you haven’t been to the group Real Time View or to others, such as Mission Critical Systems Forum and A Host System Advocates group (facilitated by participants favoring  Oracle and IBM), then perhaps you should, as the exchanges have now attracted more than a handful of NonStop advocates and the responses have been all the more encouraging to read. Even within these groups NonStop finds acceptance and the messages by NonStop advocates conveyed are openly discussed with few dissenters. Clearly, and yet again, even among groups not aligned with NonStop there is awareness, indeed acceptance, that corporations do make choices and when they do, there’s more than likely a NonStop system involved.

What stands out for me is that, like my most recent road-trip with Margo, it is the importance of the journey itself that radiates most – simply being on the journey implies you have made a start.  At HP Discover HP executive, Dave Donatelli, repeatedly told attendees of how Cloud computing was a journey where many different onramps could be taken. So too is Big Data a journey, as its adherents champion the importance of Big Data for business. It may not have a set of wheel, but NonStop is on a journey too and that’s become more apparent to me as I sift through the many discussions underway in cyberspace.

Our visit to New Orleans was definitely among the highlights of the trip. However, returning to the French Quarter and walking along Bourbon Street after an absence of nearly thirty years spoke volumes of just how this district has changed. It was hard to find the traditional Jazz and Big Band sounds I remembered, as most venues played a mix of country and rock music. There were a few venues playing traditional Mississippi blues music, but they were the exception. Then again, Bourbon Street is a business and it has clearly evolved to satisfy the tastes of those who now walk the street supporting the many establishments focused on the tourist trade.

Unlike Wang and now, it seems, Dell, NonStop and particularly under HP’s stewardship, has evolved too – all part of the journey for NonStop we have been a part of for four decades. It may be a technology behemoth atop the real-time mission critical transaction processing landscape, but for the NonStop community there’s no end in sight and for that I have to admit it’s a journey I am really enjoying. And yes, well deserving of a big thumbs-up from all of us!

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